O Antiphons: An Introduction

The O Antiphons of Advent are antiphonal refrains that make use of seven Old Testament names given to Christ. These antiphons/prayers have been used by the church since the 8th Century. In many larger parishes worship services were (and still are) offered on a daily basis. These O Antiphons were highlighted during the daily evening service of Vespers on the last seven days of Advent (December 17th through December 23rd). The popular Advent hymn “Oh, Come, Oh, Come Emmanuel” is based off of these prayers. We will carry on this tradition here at Let the Bird Fly! with short devotional thoughts leading up to Christmas.

Continue reading “O Antiphons: An Introduction”

Now Don’t Lose It

Hebrews 2:1-4

“Now don’t lose it.” Remember Mom speaking those words to you when you were young? It was almost always after she had placed some treasure in your hands. Mom had entrusted you with it. It was her gift to you. And now you had one task: don’t lose it. It probably bothered you that she felt the need to say it, but, then what happened? If you’re like me, more than once you lost it. The Father has placed a treasure in our hands, or, rather, in our ears. He has entrusted to us such a great salvation that it is almost unimaginable that we should allow ourselves to lose it.

God has brought you to the holy ark of the Church, and He says, “Don’t drift away.” Be careful, because if you’ve ever drifted away from something, you know it happens gradually. You are resting on your air mattress out on the lake, soaking in the sun, listening to some music, when, twenty minutes later, you look up, and, oops, you’re in the middle of the lake. Don’t drift away. It starts simply enough. A compromise, a second-guess, an unwillingness to stand up in a little matter, and, before you know it, you’ve not only drifted from the ark, but lost sight of it. And, even then, all may not seem lost. Surely you can paddle back. But it turns out it’s not so easy, and every misstep that led to this quandary receives its just retribution.

Consider again the treasure placed in your care. Consider again the marvelous ark to which you’ve been brought, rescued from the choppy waters and hopelessness of this life. It’s only when you appreciate what you have and where you’ve been brought that you will be determined to hold on and not drift away. God wouldn’t have given you this treasure if He wanted you to lose it. God wouldn’t have brought you to safety if He wanted you to drift into danger. No, God did these things because He loves you. Let that love compel you.

We know ourselves, though, don’t we? We wouldn’t have needed grace if we were great at keeping our words, maintaining our focus, and holding on to what matters most. No, we are easily broken and easily break. We tune out, drift out, fall away. That’s the beauty of the gospel, though. We don’t grow out of our need for it. In fact, we grow into it. We don’t need Jesus less at ninety than at nine. We aren’t less a sinner at forty than we were at twenty-four. The sins change, our bodies change, times change, but our need remains the same. Thankfully, so does Jesus.

God’s gifts of the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit Himself are yours, and all of them point you to Jesus, grab you by your ears, anchor you. Christmas is drawing near. Our celebration of the Incarnation of our Lord draws nigh. Even so, the distractions grow, the stressors increase. God is speaking, though, amidst all of it. It’s easy for us, prone as we are, to drift, to lose, for our hearing fade.

That being true, nevertheless, and in spite of our weakness, His promises sound forth and as ever ring true. The Jesus who comes is Jesus for you, your Savior. I’ll tell you again, like Mom used to, “Don’t lose it.” But I won’t leave it there, because Jesus doesn’t. Let me tell you as well, “He has no intention of losing you.” You are His One, His treasure.

Wade Johnston

For more content like this, check out the podcast, blog posts, and devotions at www.LetTheBirdFly.com.

For more on Advent, check out our first pass at the season or our second, most recent, pass.

For more writing by Wade, you can find his books here and more blog posts here.

God Grant Us Ears and Take Us by Them

Acts 3:22-26

God grant us ears. God take us by them. Faith come from hearing and we live by faith. “The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you.” Jesus is that Prophet. Jesus is the Word of God Himself. And what does the Father tell us at Jesus’ Transfiguration but to listen to him? Continue reading “God Grant Us Ears and Take Us by Them”

Wrapped up in Christ

Colossians 1:15-23aa

You are holy and blameless. Hard to believe, isn’t it? We know we are anything but, and we’re right. We have done what is wrong and failed to do what is right. And that is why Christ came. That is why the very image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, became the firstborn from the dead. He is the Head, but what is a Head without a Body? And that is where the holy and blameless things comes into the picture. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and not only to dwell, but to reconcile us to himself by making peace by the blood of His cross. Continue reading “Wrapped up in Christ”

More Than What Could Have Been

Haggai 2:1-9

In their weakness, God told His remnant to be strong, not because the outlook was bright in the eyes of the here-and-now, but because through eyes of faith they could see God’s work as good as done. Be strong! I don’t know what your horizon looks like now, but I do know that God says to you, “Be strong!” Why? God is with you; God is on your side. His Spirit remains in your midst, dwelling in you as His temple through faith. Will God not protect, preserve, and prosper His temple, His sanctuary? Continue reading “More Than What Could Have Been”

God’s Expectant Temples

Zechariah 2:10-13

Zechariah was a prophet in Judah around the time the temple was being rebuilt. God’s people had suffered the destruction of all they held dear, exile, and less-than-human treatment by their enemies. All this was because of their sins, their rebellion against God’s covenant with them and His warning to them through the prophets. Now Zechariah was sent to encourage God’s people as they were reestablished in the Promised Land, as God renewed His promise of protection and peace, mercy and redemption. Israel did not build the temple overnight. It was a long promise, as God’s promise took flesh, not in a flash, but with each bang of the hammer and sling of the ax. They were in need of constant encouragement. Continue reading “God’s Expectant Temples”

Free to Plant a Tree

Colossians 1:9-14

I used to wonder if I would be scared at Christ’s coming. I still do at times. The conclusion I have come to is: yes and no. Yes, I will probably be frightened by the great show of might that will accompany His coming with thunder and lightning and trumpets and so forth. Yes, there will be a godly fear of the knowledge that I am standing in front of God Almighty. But I think there will also be a certain familiarity involved and that it will be hard to be too scared of the One who already did so much for me in His first coming. St. Paul says, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

The Father who loved us enough to send such a Son must be tender and loving. The Son who brought us such things at the cost of His very life must be kindly disposed toward us. Knowing that such a marvelous day is coming, when we will be filled with reverent fear and familial love at the same time, how can we not live as part of the family, with a holy awe and a pious vigilance? St. Paul prayed that the Colossians would do just that. I pray we will as well, walking in a manner worthy of our coming Lord, with patience and joy, power and might, flowing from a well-fed faith. Our Lord is coming. He is coming for us, His Family.

Christ will come, but as we wait, He still comes to be our strength and hope. We are being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy” What He asks of us He gives, which is why we can rejoice. The gospel that declares us His own, not-guilty, redeemed and forgiven, is the same gospel at work in and through us. Christ is no idle guest. No, we give thanks to our Father because He has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. We measure up and now God, whose mercy is immeasurable, works through us, bringing forth fruit in every good work in those planted in His grace.

Luther was once supposedly asked what he would do if he knew Christ were returning tomorrow. The story goes that he replied that he’d plant a tree. Will we be afraid on the Last Day? It certainly will be an awe-full day. We need not be afraid of the One who comes for us, though. We qualify. We are delivered, redeemed, forgiven, free. As we wait, then, we can plant our trees, we can live in the confidence of His grace as He who works all things for us works through us as He sees fit.

Wade Johnston

For more content like this, check out the podcast, blog posts, and devotions at www.LetTheBirdFly.com.

For more on Advent, check out our first pass at the season or our second, most recent, pass.

For more writing by Wade, you can find his books here and more blog posts here.